'I pass out when I orgasm'

Published Wednesday, Aug 6 2014, 20:00 BST  |  By  |  Add comment
Toni Hancock has a condition that means she can faint at any time – even during sex...

Many men dream of women going weak at the knees for them, but for Lee Shipley, it's not an unusual occurrence. His girlfriend, Toni Hancock, regularly passes out as he brings her to orgasm.

However, it's not Lee's skills in the sack that makes the 23-year-old from Worksop, Notts, faint. She has been diagnosed with vasovagal syncope, a condition where a decreased flow of blood to the brain causes the sufferer to lose consciousness and it has turned Toni's world upside down.

"To be honest, in bed, having sex, is one of the safest places I pass out. I've come close to being run over, breaking bones and have had to completely overhaul my diet and lifestyle," says the pretty brunette. "It's a living nightmare. I constantly worry it's going to happen as I rarely have any indication."

Toni Hancock, I pass out when I orgasm

© Claire Wood Photography Ltd

Toni fainted the second time she had sex with Lee

Despite a healthy childhood, Toni first passed out in school when she was 15 years old: "I was on my way to class on the fourth floor. There was no lift there, so I was running up the stairs but halfway up, I fainted.

"When I came round, I had no idea what had happened. I'd bumped my head as I'd fallen and my teacher sent me home. I put it down to a one-off because I hadn't eaten breakfast."

However, just a few days later she lost consciousness again. This time, she banged her head on the granite kitchen floor at home and her mum made an appointment with their GP, who said it was just a passing phase that she'd grow out of.

"But instead, I started to faint regularly. Once, on my way to college, I got off the bus and was about to cross the road. But the next thing I knew, I was lying in a bush. I'd collapsed and was lucky not to have been hit by a passing vehicle. It
was then I realised just how dangerous this could be. I became scared to leave the house."

After returning to her doctor, Toni underwent a series of tests. She had MRI scans and had to wear an electrocardiogram for 48 hours to measure her heart's electrical activity. She also underwent an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart.

Toni was then asked to keep a diary of every time she fainted, recording the situation and what she'd eaten to try and find a pattern.

"I started thinking about every little thing. If I found myself standing still in a supermarket queue for more than a few minutes, I'd shuffle my feet and fidget. I'm sure people thought I was impatient but instead I was just trying to prevent myself from passing out," she says.

"I even fainted in the shower and, as I fell forward, I cut my face on the taps. So I started wondering whether the water was too hot or if I'd stood under it for too long. Whatever the cause, I wasn't prepared to risk splitting my head open again so from then on I've only ever had baths.

"However, over time, it became very clear there was no set pattern to my condition. I could pass out anywhere, at any time."

Eventually Toni was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope, a condition that can't be cured, only controlled. Any mild form of stress or exertion could cause her to faint. So she has to ensure that she eats regularly and has had to up her salt and sugar intake to maintain her blood pressure levels.

She can't get out of bed too quickly after waking up and driving is completely off the cards. She has even had to quit her job as a shop assistant because she fainted too many times at work.

But it wasn't until Toni met Lee through friends three years ago that she realised the impact her condition was going to have on her love life.

"I hadn't had a serious relationship until Lee but as soon as we met, the attraction was instantaneous. I didn't really explain my condition to him as we were just getting to know one another and enjoying the moment. I'd mentioned it in passing, but I didn't want to frighten him off."

But the second time the pair had sex, Lee was made fully aware of Toni's health issues. She says: "We were in bed and I was on the verge of orgasm. But the next thing I knew, Lee was saying my name over and over again – because I'd passed out.

"When I realised what had happened, my heart sank. Not only had I been cheated out of experiencing my first orgasm with Lee but I was also terrified my condition would affect our relationship. Thankfully, Lee was more concerned whether I was OK than anything else."

The ordeal had a lasting effect on Lee.

"It was really scary," he remembers. "As soon as I realised Toni had blacked out, I immediately stopped having sex with her and put her into the recovery position. She woke up after a couple of seconds but my heart was thumping. It's not something you want to happen when you've only known someone for a short while."

Since then, coming close to orgasm has become one of Toni's triggers and, although to the couple's pleasure she doesn't pass out every time, it is a fairly regular occurrence.

"Now Lee knows to put me in the recovery position, with my knees up and my legs flexed, to start my blood flowing properly again,' Toni says. 'Yes, it can be a passion killer but, since his friends found out, they all joke about him being a real stud in the bedroom. But they haven't got the faintest clue!"

By Judy Broadbent & Sarah Whiteley